The National Digital Economy Blueprint 2021

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Malaysia’s Prime Minister launched the Malaysia Digital Economy blueprint in February this year, with the view to transform Malaysia into a digitally-driven, high income nation, as well as a regional leader in digital economy.

With MyDigital now, many are reminded of the multimedia super corridor or MSC, the previous national blueprint which wanted to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy modelled after the Silicon Valley.

But what exactly is it?

Fabian Bigar, CEO of the Strategic Change Management Office (SCMO) sheds more light about MyDigital, and the role of the SCMO.

Table of contents

EITN: Just to be clear, the SCMO under the Prime Minister Office and EPU,  translates the blueprint (as outlined by EPU or Economic Planning Unit) into action items, and holds the report card for how well each “item” is doing. Is this accurate?

Fabian: If you refer to the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, it is stated the Strategic Change Management Office (SCMO) functions as the:

(i) change management driver;

(ii) overall monitoring and evaluation unit; and

(iii) secretariat to the National Digital Economy and 4IR Steering Committee.

In other words, while we manage the report card for the initiatives under the blueprint, we are also responsible for inter-agency, inter-sectoral and public-private coordination and facilitation in ensuring the smooth implementation of the initiatives under the blueprint.

EITN: From what I understand, there are various agencies grouped into the 6 different clusters to mirror the 6 thrusts in the blueprint – can you share what these agencies are?

Fabian: Yes, there are 6 clusters chaired by respective Ministers and the Chief Secretary to the Government. The 6 clusters are:

i) Digital Talent – chaired by the Minister of Human Resource;

ii) Digital Infrastructure and Data – chaired by the Minister of   Communications and Multimedia;

iii) Emerging Technology – chaired by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation;

iv) Economy – chaired by the Minister of International Trade and Industry;

v) Society – chaired by the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development;  and

vi) Government -chaired by the Secretary General to the Government.

EITN: There was a lot of feedback towards MyDigital when it was announced. The main one is that it now all boils down to execution. From what I understand, the various agencies will be tracked by you. Can delivery units, agencies, special purpose vehicles move without SCMO’s guidance/greenlight? Do they at least report back to the SCMO?

Fabian: Yes, execution is key. In addition to the blueprint, we will need to have the detailed implementation plans for each of the initiatives listed to be able to track the progress of the initiatives. As the secretariat to the National Digital Economy and 4IR Council, the SCMO tracks the progress of these initiatives and will facilitate to find solutions to overcome any impediments to ensure successful delivery of intended outcomes of the blueprint.

EITN: What are the main challenges you are facing right now? What are potential pitfalls that need to be avoided in your opinion?

Fabian: We have a very short runway. In addition to assembling the team, we had to carry out programmes such as the detailed implementation workshops (virtually due to the MCO), facilitation and engagement with private sector stakeholders from the moment we were set up. As in anything in life, effective communication is very important so everything that we do and our intentions are clearly understood. For the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, it is important to communicate effectively not only to the  general public and businesses but across the government machinery.

(Editor’s note: Fabian opts not to comment about 5G).

EITN: When it comes to cloud and data centres, there is an immediate cabotage issue which seems to be a huge hurdle for Malaysia to have the highest number of submarine cable landings (which is one of objectives mentioned). What are the measures that can/are being taken?

Fabian: The Ministry of Transport is the official party to issue communication about this.

EITN: There is especially a lot of interest in cybersecurity – a strong, resilient and robust digital economy in a way, is dependent on cybersecurity. Could you share/preview plans to create 20k cybersecurity and 30k data professionals by 2025?

Fabian: The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint identifies cybersecurity as a critical component in building the digital ecosystem of the future. Under Thrust 6, “Build trusted, secure and ethical digital environment”, the blueprint outlines several new initiatives and proposals to enhance existing policies to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity posture. The strategy is to strengthen safety and ethics in digital activities and transactions.

Under initiative 5 of Thrust 6, we are targeting 70% of companies to adopt cyber security measures by 2025. We are also working with the related government agencies and private stakeholders on the plans to produce cybersecurity and data professionals by 2025. We are currently working out the details through our implementation details workshop. I should be to share more soon.

EITN: Data privacy – as usage of MySejahtera app ramps up, what are immediate steps being taken to ensure personal data of users remain protected?

Fabian: The MySejahtera app is managed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with several other agencies such as the National Security Council, MAMPU and MCMC. From what I know, the data from MySejahtera is closely guarded by MOH and the extraction of data is for contact tracing purposes. Strict data process flow is adhered to as very few officials have access to the information in MySejahtera. There is also a limitation on how long certain data such as check ins (movement) are stored.

EITN: I am happy that someone who understands healthcare is driving the SCMO for national digital initiatives. There are various platform players and a framework for them to work within now.  What are the top challenges now?

Fabian: In healthcare, the patient experience is very important, hence the emphasis on patient centred care. In order to create a seamless patient experience, healthcare providers will need to collect data on their patients. Here itself, there will be challenges in terms of trust (security of sensitive information) as well sharing of data across different platforms in the public and private sector.

If you have been a patient in the private system, how do you ensure that all your records and data are accessible by the healthcare provider in the public system. We have been talking about this from the days of MSC actually, remember Lifetime Health Records. Other challenges include connectivity, accessibility and regulatory issues.

EITN: Is there potential for the National Digital Identity initiative to integrate with the MySejahtera app? Or our national passport?

Fabian: The implementation of the national digital identity (NDI) and digital signatures is included in the Blueprint to increase the scope and quality of online services for a better user/citizen experience. It is found in  Thrust 1 “Drive Digital Transformation in the Public Sector” of the Blueprint.

The initiative aims to implement the NDI as a trusted digital identification and verification for individuals, ensuring flexible and secure online transactions as well as reducing administrative costs while delivering more efficient services.

The NDI is fully expected to be implemented by 2025 and the promotion to use the NDI will start as soon as 2022. All relevant services provided by the government will be using NDI. The NDI will complement MyKad as proof of citizenship. Integration into other important documents such as passports, I am sure will be explored over the course of the implementation.

EITN: Especially in the area of open data and data sharing between ministries and agencies. That is a long-standing situation that begs to be addressed, and you are now tasked to make it happen. How will you get all the relevant parties to work together?

Fabian: This is something that is listed under Initiative 8 of Thrust 1 in the blueprint. Having said that, this issue is  being addressed by the Working Group on Laws and Regulations co-chaired by two very respected personalities in the Industry and the working  group is represented by various relevant government agencies and the private sector. The group is expected to present its recommendations soon and we will follow up from them.

EITN: In which areas, are you looking to hire? When do you estimate the SCMO to be at full fighting strength?

Fabian: I always believed in a multidisciplinary team so I am looking for people from various backgrounds and talents. These include people familiar with the Industry, familiar with how the government machinery operates, people with programme management background and people with problem solving skills. Hence, I have identified people from both the private and public sector who I think have some of these traits.

Of course, the overall most important trait I am looking for is their sense of duty to bring our nation to greater heights. I do expect the vacancies to be fully filled by the end of July but I am blessed with support from various organisations who have offered all kinds of support including providing talents for short term attachments while we build up our own capacity.